Statement: Online sextortion is a public safety emergency harming our children; we must act urgently to protect them
Statement on behalf of Lianna McDonald, Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Child Protection
For Immediate Release
The explosion of sextortion cases targeting Canadian children is a public safety emergency requiring urgent action from government, law enforcement, and social media companies.
Reports by media earlier this week highlighting the tragic story of a family whose child died by suicide following a sophisticated and highly aggressive sextortion scam highlights the real‑life harm impacting thousands of young Canadians using social media platforms every day, and the trail of devastation families are left with.
Over the past weeks, law enforcement agencies across Canada, the U.S., and Australia have repeatedly issued warnings to the public about a massive spike in sextortion cases, largely targeting adolescent boys. Through the operation of Cybertip.ca, our own organisation has been receiving unprecedented volumes of calls from the parents and children desperate for help.
Kids from coast to coast are being duped into believing they are interacting with someone their age, often from their own communities, only to have their lives suddenly hijacked by an anonymous adult offender behind the account. What follows are aggressive demands for money accompanied by a barrage of threats to their lives and wellbeing.
In many cases, these young victims try to manage the situation alone, never telling anyone.
Informed by thousands of tips from the public and other research, we know offenders seek out children where children are to be found: on the social platforms they engage with for hours each day such as Instagram and Snapchat.
While the federal government continues its crucial work on delivering a legal framework to protect Canadians from online harm, those at the helm of the social media companies being used to target children must also step up and protect their most vulnerable users.
We have long ago collectively agreed that children deserve enhanced protections in the offline world. And yet, despite numerous real‑life tragedies occurring to children as a result of an online interaction, we have utterly failed to insist upon those same standards in online spaces. We owe it to children to fix this. Now.Media relations contact:
1 (204) 560-0723